Politics can be ugly

To the Editor:

As a taxpaying Berne resident, I’m annoyed (along with many other taxpaying residents) with Berne Town Council member Joel Willsey. Therefore I am writing a letter to the editor regarding a letter to the editor in the Aug. 22, 2019 edition of The Altamont Enterprise titled “Minivan on its nose in excavation site raises questions that need answers” by Joel Willsey, and the related story: “Minivan upended: Who’s at fault?”

Ever since Randy Bashwinger, a Republican, was elected town of Berne highway superintendent, we have seen numerous letters to the editor in The Altamont Enterprise from Joel Willsey, a Democrat, complaining about one thing or another regarding the Berne Highway Department under the direction of Highway Superintendent Bashwinger.

It seems that the only eye exercise Berne residents get is from rolling their eyes at the mere mention of Willsey’s name.

The most recent Willsey rant about highway Superintendent Bashwinger and Berne highway employees involves an incident that took place on Bridge Road on Aug. 1, 2019.

It is unfortunate but not surprising that Berne Councilman Joel Willsey has taken this incident to malign the Superintendent Bashwinger and Berne highway department employees.

In Willsey’s opinion, the temporary traffic control plan for the Bridge Road work zone site was seriously flawed in its design and implementation; the Berne Highway Superintendent and the highway department employees’ failure to abide by the guidelines set forth in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) caused the incident and they are therefore at fault …

Willsey has quoted the MUTCD so many times I’m quite sure he keeps in under his pillow for immediate and instant reference. Observant town residents may have noticed that we have no traffic lights, no three lane highways, and no traffic circles within the town. As further information, the Town of Berne Highway department utilizes the Cornell University New York State Traffic Sign Handbook For Local Roads, (CUNYSTSHFLR) as a guide for its roadwork signage. 

As told to me, on the morning of Aug. 1, 2019 before Bridge Road repairs began, Berne highway employees erected barriers with channelizing cones on both ends of Bridge Road, one at the intersection of Bridge Road and Canaday Hill Road and Bradt Hollow Road. The barriers with cones complied with the requirements and standards of the CUNYSTSHFLR. The signage in front of the barriers clearly stated “Road Closed, Local Traffic Only.”

(“Road Closed” means just that: Road closed. You should not enter or go beyond the barrier. “Road Closed” means take another route. “Local Traffic Only” means, if you are a resident or have bona fide business between the warning-sign barrier and the work site, you may proceed with caution lest you meet a truck or other equipment going to or from the work zone.)

Close by on both sides of the work zone another set of channelizing cones were put in place.

Per the above noted article, “Minivan upended: Who’s at fault?,” the motorist ignored the warning signage and barrier at the intersection of Bridge Road and Canaday Hill Road and proceeded on Bridge Road; she then went around a second barrier on Bridge Road, and then, per the police report, the motorist, “unable to see because of the glare of the sun, proceeded forward failing to see the gap in the road and drove into the missing section of roadway.”

The motorist stated she had used Bridge Road as a through road on other trips to Albany. That may be so; however, to ignore a “Road Closed” sign and proceed as if the road were a through road was a mistake.

The motorist knowingly and willfully drove around not one barrier but two barriers, and, although blinded by the glare of the sun, kept driving — straight into a large cut in the roadway. By failing to exercise due caution, the motorist’s minivan ended up upended in a work-zone hole.

Who’s at fault? Certainly not Bashwinger or the Berne Highway Department employees. I wonder what lesson the motorist learned from this experience?

I’ve heard it said that all politics are local. I’d like to add: and ugly. From his previous ranting letters to the editor we all know the disdain Willsey, a Democrat, holds for Berne Highway Superintendent Bashwinger, a Republican.

What I find annoying and most troubling and, I should add, bewildering about Willsey’s letter to the editor regarding this incident, is that Willsey, as a member of the Berne Town Council opined that Berne Highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger and Town of Berne Highway employees were at fault and not the errant motorist. Why would he expose the town and residents to a potential lawsuit?

Willsey knows better than to throw Superintendent Bashwinger and town highway employees under the bus for political gain. How sad. Politics are indeed ugly!

Robert J. Motschmann III


More Letters to the Editor

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.